Internal vs. External Marketing for a Physical Therapy Practice

(Updated March, 2024)

Often when physical therapy owners or staff ask for help with marketing, we ask “What type of marketing?” This is a perplexing question for many owners, because they think all marketing is the same.

Marketing is a global term that encompasses both internal and external approaches to communicating your services to the public, ultimately resulting in helping more people. And, as expected, there are many ways to accomplish this.

We often associate marketing your practice with promotional marketing, branding, website, public relations, social media, and advertising. But before you dive into these facets, you must first wrap your head around the purpose and goals you want to accomplish with Marketing, and work backwards from there. 

To accomplish these goals, you will first need a Marketing Department. This team must solve two components: Internal & External Marketing for your Physical Therapy practice. 

It’s important to know the difference and how to measure them before you make strides to improve your marketing division.


Scalable Marketing

Marketing these days has to be scalable, meaning – you’ll need defined stats & metrics to measure how well you are performing. 

Your marketing strategies need to be scalable based on your office size. You need three things to do this effectively: 1) A marketing budget 2) A marketing program 3) Individual marketing campaigns.

You’ll want to formulate your Annual Marketing Plan as a first step. This marketing program is broken into 2-Month Marketing Campaigns. These campaigns can be scheduled on Google Calendar for maximum efficiency and organization.

To keep things “scalable” you might measure such items in your campaign as how many new potential new clients you want for each quarter? How many pieces of original content should you be creating for organic engagement? Which (and how many) social media channels should you have a presence on, and what analytics do you report on them?

Next, the marketing budget is established by calculating 1-3% of last year’s total gross income. This number is divided by four to determine the budget per quarter. It’s often difficult for an owner to set aside this kind of money for marketing, but all marketing programs should bring back at least a 200% return on investment, so keep that in mind as you go boldly forward.

Once you have your marketing budget, followed by your annual marketing program and your marketing campaigns, you can start looking at what needs to be done internally versus externally.

Internal VS. External Marketing

External Marketing

External Marketing is led by your Marketing Coordinator. This person is tasked with turning strangers into advocates of your company and promoters of your brand. They are out “painting the town” so to speak to broaden your referral base. Whether this is done through doctor referrals, allied health professionals or just expanding your public reach, your Marketing Coordinator needs to be trained in how to build rapport with doctors and “break through” their front desks.

It is important that the person who takes on this position has an outgoing, social personality (we call this the “PR Personality”) and is equipped with the relevant materials needed to effectively communicate your services to the various offices.

A word of caution: while physical therapy referral programs are a beloved and popular means of expanding reach in Marketing, this opens the door to potential non-Compliance potholes that you must be aware of. Did you know that you actually can’t offer or solicit anything of value to induce or reward referrals? This violates what’s called the Anti-kickback statute

Practices often want referrals as a Marketing tactic, with Friends & Family discounts and money off, but according to this statute, you actually can’t give incentives for these kinds of programs, as favoritism of any kind is not tolerated.

I know what you’re thinking: “But it’s so innocent and I’ve been doing it for years!” These seemingly innocent programs are actually dangerous, as they can potentially get you into big trouble with the law. We’re talking penalties of up to $25,000 and 5 years of jail time!

To avoid this, you may want to consider offering a referral program as a “game of chance/skill,” where there are fair opportunities and barriers. Here, prizes can be won based purely off luck and randomization. 

Internal Marketing

Internal marketing efforts are led by your Patient Care Representative (PCR). These efforts are to get more patients from your existing patient base – how do we get people who know, love and use us to know, love and use us more? How do we get these brand evangelists to rave about us to other potential clients? There are multiple Internal marketing elements that can help here, such as:

  • A Patient Care Rep who loves the patients and is great behind a screen
  • They gather Success Stories & Testimonials
  • They record NPS (Net Promoter Score)
  • They post online for the group internally (perhaps through a Facebook group)
  • They organize patient engagement programs with fun gamification
  • They manage online reviews, patient surveys, and more.

Keep an eye out here again for Physical Therapy Compliance issues, as the utilization of personal information in such things as testimonials and success stories must be monitored and kept appropriate. 

And don’t forget that your Front Desk Coordinator is also a part of Marketing! They too must have a great patient care advocate attitude, distribute the “Welcome to the Practice” folders, and keep patients compliant through scheduling, etc. 

Final tip – the Physical Therapist’s MAP.

Weekly MAPs (Management Action Plans) can be an incredible tool for keeping every member of the Marketing Dept on track throughout the campaign. 

The happier your patients are, the more likely they are to refer others to your practice, so remember that when you’re directing your Patient Care Rep, Marketing Coordinator, Front Desk Coordinator and other members of your team for internal and external marketing efforts. 

You can learn more about low budget marketing strategies through a free MEG Academy consultation with one of our coaches. They are happy to chat more about how to scale your marketing and how to make sure your internal and external efforts are being fully effective to skyrocket you to the top 10% of physical therapy private practices. 

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